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  • 8/13/2019 Jfk Secrecy


    Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen:I appreciate very much your generous

    invitation to be here tonight. You bear heavy responsibilities these

    days and an article I read some time agoreminded me of how particularly heavilythe burdens of present day events bearupon your profession.

    You may remember that in 1851 theNew York Herald Tribune under thesponsorship and publishing of Horace

    Greeley, employed as its Londoncorrespondent an obscure journalist bythe name of Karl Marx.

    We are told that foreign

    correspondent Marx, stone broke, and with a family ill and undernourished,constantly appealed to Greeley andmanaging editor Charles Dana for an

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    increase in his munificent salary of $5per installment, a salary which he and

    Engels ungratefully labeled as the"lousiest petty bourgeois cheating."

    But when all his financial appeals were refused, Marx looked around forother means of livelihood and fame,eventually terminating his relationship with the Tribune and devoting histalents full time to the cause that would bequeath the world the seeds of

    Leninism, Stalinism, revolution and thecold war.

    If only this capitalistic New Yorknewspaper had treated him more kindly;if only Marx had remained a foreigncorrespondent, history might have beendifferent. And I hope all publishers will bear this lesson in mind the next time

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    they receive a poverty-stricken appealfor a small increase in the expense

    account from an obscure newspaperman.

    I have selected as the title of myremarks tonight "The President and thePress." Some may suggest that this would be more naturally worded "ThePresident Versus the Press." But thoseare not my sentiments tonight.

    It is true, however, that when a well-

    known diplomat from another countrydemanded recently that our StateDepartment repudiate certainnewspaper attacks on his colleague it was unnecessary for us to reply that this Administration was not responsible forthe press, for the press had already

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    made it clear that it was not responsiblefor this Administration.

    Nevertheless, my purpose heretonight is not to deliver the usual assaulton the so-called one party press. On thecontrary, in recent months I have rarelyheard any complaints about political bias in the press except from a fewRepublicans. Nor is it my purposetonight to discuss or defend thetelevising of Presidential press

    conferences. I think it is highly beneficial to have some 20,000,000 Americans regularly sit in on theseconferences to observe, if I may say so,the incisive, the intelligent and thecourteous qualities displayed by your Washington correspondents.

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    Nor, finally, are these remarksintended to examine the proper degree

    of privacy which the press should allowto any President and his family.

    If in the last few months your WhiteHouse reporters and photographershave been attending church services with regularity, that has surely donethem no harm.

    On the other hand, I realize that yourstaff and wire service photographers

    may be complaining that they do notenjoy the same green privileges at thelocal golf courses that they once did.

    It is true that my predecessor did notobject as I do to pictures of one's golfingskill in action. But neither on the otherhand did he ever bean a Secret Serviceman.

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    My topic tonight is a more sober oneof concern to publishers as well as

    editors.I want to talk about our common

    responsibilities in the face of a commondanger. The events of recent weeks mayhave helped to illuminate that challengefor some; but the dimensions of itsthreat have loomed large on the horizonfor many years. Whatever our hopesmay be for the future--for reducing this

    threat or living with it--there is noescaping either the gravity or the totalityof its challenge to our survival and toour security--a challenge that confrontsus in unaccustomed ways in everysphere of human activity.

    This deadly challenge imposes uponour society two requirements of direct

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    concern both to the press and to thePresident--two requirements that may

    seem almost contradictory in tone, but which must be reconciled and fulfilled if we are to meet this national peril. Irefer, first, to the need for a far greaterpublic information; and, second, to theneed for far greater official secrecy.

    The very word "secrecy" is repugnantin a free and open society; and we are as

    a people inherently and historicallyopposed to secret societies, to secretoaths and to secret proceedings. Wedecided long ago that the dangers ofexcessive and unwarranted concealmentof pertinent facts far outweighed thedangers which are cited to justify it.Even today, there is little value in

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    opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions.

    Even today, there is little value ininsuring the survival of our nation if ourtraditions do not survive with it. Andthere is very grave danger that anannounced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious toexpand its meaning to the very limits ofofficial censorship and concealment.That I do not intend to permit to the

    extent that it is in my control. And noofficial of my Administration, whetherhis rank is high or low, civilian ormilitary, should interpret my words heretonight as an excuse to censor the news,to stifle dissent, to cover up ourmistakes or to withhold from the press

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    and the public the facts they deserve toknow.

    But I do ask every publisher, everyeditor, and every newsman in the nationto reexamine his own standards, and torecognize the nature of our country'speril. In time of war, the governmentand the press have customarily joined inan effort based largely on self-discipline,to prevent unauthorized disclosures tothe enemy. In time of "clear and present

    danger," the courts have held that eventhe privileged rights of the First Amendment must yield to the public'sneed for national security.

    Today no war has been declared--andhowever fierce the struggle may be, itmay never be declared in the traditionalfashion. Our way of life is under attack.

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    Those who make themselves our enemyare advancing around the globe. The

    survival of our friends is in danger. And yet no war has been declared, no borders have been crossed by marchingtroops, no missiles have been fired.

    If the press is awaiting a declarationof war before it imposes the self-discipline of combat conditions, then Ican only say that no war ever posed agreater threat to our security. If you are

    awaiting a finding of "clear and presentdanger," then I can only say that thedanger has never been more clear andits presence has never been moreimminent.

    It requires a change in outlook, achange in tactics, a change in missions-- by the government, by the people, by

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    every businessman or labor leader, and by every newspaper. For we are opposed

    around the world by a monolithic andruthless conspiracy that relies primarilyon covert means for expanding itssphere of influence--on infiltrationinstead of invasion, on subversioninstead of elections, on intimidationinstead of free choice, on guerrillas bynight instead of armies by day. It is asystem which has conscripted vast

    human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficientmachine that combines military,diplomatic, intelligence, economic,scientific and political operations.

    Its preparations are concealed, notpublished. Its mistakes are buried, notheadlined. Its dissenters are silenced,

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    not praised. No expenditure isquestioned, no rumor is printed, no

    secret is revealed. It conducts the Cold War, in short, with a war-time disciplineno democracy would ever hope or wishto match.

    Nevertheless, every democracyrecognizes the necessary restraints ofnational security--and the questionremains whether those restraints needto be more strictly observed if we are to

    oppose this kind of attack as well asoutright invasion.

    For the facts of the matter are thatthis nation's foes have openly boasted ofacquiring through our newspapersinformation they would otherwise hireagents to acquire through theft, briberyor espionage; that details of this nation's

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    covert preparations to counter theenemy's covert operations have been

    available to every newspaper reader,friend and foe alike; that the size, thestrength, the location and the nature ofour forces and weapons, and our plansand strategy for their use, have all beenpinpointed in the press and other newsmedia to a degree sufficient to satisfyany foreign power; and that, in at leastin one case, the publication of details

    concerning a secret mechanism wherebysatellites were followed required itsalteration at the expense of considerabletime and money.

    The newspapers which printed thesestories were loyal, patriotic, responsibleand well-meaning. Had we beenengaged in open warfare, they

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    undoubtedly would not have publishedsuch items. But in the absence of open

    warfare, they recognized only the tests of journalism and not the tests of nationalsecurity. And my question tonight is whether additional tests should not now be adopted.

    The question is for you alone toanswer. No public official should answerit for you. No governmental plan shouldimpose its restraints against your will.

    But I would be failing in my duty to thenation, in considering all of theresponsibilities that we now bear and allof the means at hand to meet thoseresponsibilities, if I did not commendthis problem to your attention, and urgeits thoughtful consideration.

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    On many earlier occasions, I havesaid--and your newspapers have

    constantly said--that these are timesthat appeal to every citizen's sense ofsacrifice and self-discipline. They callout to every citizen to weigh his rightsand comforts against his obligations tothe common good. I cannot now believethat those citizens who serve in thenewspaper business consider themselvesexempt from that appeal.

    I have no intention of establishing anew Office of War Information to governthe flow of news. I am not suggestingany new forms of censorship or any newtypes of security classifications. I haveno easy answer to the dilemma that Ihave posed, and would not seek toimpose it if I had one. But I am asking

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    the members of the newspaperprofession and the industry in this

    country to reexamine their ownresponsibilities, to consider the degreeand the nature of the present danger,and to heed the duty of self-restraint which that danger imposes upon us all.

    Every newspaper now asks itself, withrespect to every story: "Is it news?" All Isuggest is that you add the question: "Isit in the interest of the national

    security?" And I hope that every groupin America--unions and businessmenand public officials at every level-- willask the same question of theirendeavors, and subject their actions tothe same exacting tests.

    And should the press of Americaconsider and recommend the voluntary

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    assumption of specific new steps ormachinery, I can assure you that we will

    cooperate whole-heartedly with thoserecommendations.

    Perhaps there will be norecommendations. Perhaps there is noanswer to the dilemma faced by a freeand open society in a cold and secret war. In times of peace, any discussion ofthis subject, and any action that results,are both painful and without precedent.

    But this is a time of peace and peril which knows no precedent in history.

    It is the unprecedented nature of thischallenge that also gives rise to yoursecond obligation--an obligation which Ishare. And that is our obligation toinform and alert the American people--

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    to make certain that they possess all thefacts that they need, and understand

    them as well--the perils, the prospects,the purposes of our program and thechoices that we face.

    No President should fear publicscrutiny of his program. For from thatscrutiny comes understanding; and fromthat understanding comes support oropposition. And both are necessary. Iam not asking your newspapers to

    support the Administration, but I amasking your help in the tremendous taskof informing and alerting the Americanpeople. For I have complete confidencein the response and dedication of ourcitizens whenever they are fullyinformed.

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    I not only could not stifle controversyamong your readers--I welcome it. This

    Administration intends to be candidabout its errors; for as a wise man oncesaid: "An error does not become amistake until you refuse to correct it." We intend to accept full responsibilityfor our errors; and we expect you topoint them out when we miss them.

    Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can

    succeed--and no republic can survive.That is why the Athenian lawmakerSolon decreed it a crime for any citizento shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment-- the only business in America specifically protected by theConstitution- -not primarily to amuse

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    and entertain, not to emphasize thetrivial and the sentimental, not to simply

    "give the public what it wants"--but toinform, to arouse, to reflect, to state ourdangers and our opportunities, toindicate our crises and our choices, tolead, mold, educate and sometimes evenanger public opinion.

    This means greater coverage andanalysis of international news--for it isno longer far away and foreign but close

    at hand and local. It means greaterattention to improved understanding ofthe news as well as improvedtransmission. And it means, finally, thatgovernment at all levels, must meet itsobligation to provide you with the fullestpossible information outside the

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    narrowest limits of national security--and we intend to do it.

    It was early in the SeventeenthCentury that Francis Bacon remarked onthree recent inventions alreadytransforming the world: the compass,gunpowder and the printing press. Nowthe links between the nations firstforged by the compass have made us allcitizens of the world, the hopes andthreats of one becoming the hopes and

    threats of us all. In that one world'sefforts to live together, the evolution ofgunpowder to its ultimate limit has warned mankind of the terribleconsequences of failure.

    And so it is to the printing press--tothe recorder of man's deeds, the keeperof his conscience, the courier of his

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    news--that we look for strength andassistance, confident that with your help

    man will be what he was born to be: freeand independent